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Thank you to our fabulous guest blogger for this informative insight into biking with babies and car-free life with children.
By: Elle Bustamante, Bike/Pedestrian Educator and amazing car-free mama of 2 at Tiny Helmets Big Bikes.
Bicycling is awesome! Remember the freedom it gave you as a child–the wind in your face, exploring new neighborhoods, getting tired and sweaty, and riding around with a big, giant grin plastered to your face? But then we grow up, we buy cars because we need to go farther and faster and that’s what we’re told to do. We lose freedom to responsibility and the bikes get tucked away in the garage to get dusty.
After my second child, I decided I wanted a change. I didn’t want to be schlepping my children around in a car anymore. I wanted my freedom back. I got back on my bike, children in tow, and started pedaling. Those feelings came back and I was happy! It didn’t matter if I was doing a mundane chore like picking up groceries if I was on my bike. Weekend picnics didn’t involve piling into a car, driving in traffic-filled streets, going round and round to find parking, only to be totally exhausted before we even sat down at the park. Instead, we rode. The boys were noticing the world around them, smelling dinners as we passed houses in the evening or pointing out the funny purple house with the tiny dog out front. We were talking and singing and smiling again–no more shouting at the backseat to get them to stop fighting so I could concentrate.
Bicycling not only gave me back my freedom, but also my connection with our community, and a slower-paced lifestyle so I could fully focus on my family. We enjoy the adventure of getting somewhere, we’re not just rushing to the next destination.
The number one comment I hear is always regarding safety. “Is that safe?” The short answer: yes. The longer answer: nothing in life is safe. Living life will eventually lead to dying, in one way or another. Sitting on your chair all day will kill you. Stairs kill more people each year than bicycles. The number one killer of children that no one talks about is cars. Cars are deadly yet no one thinks of the danger as they’re strapping their children down into styrofoam seats with nylon straps and plastic buckles then hurdling down the freeway at 70mph. Mile for mile, bicycling is safer than driving your car. The best way to minimize your risks while riding is to take a class in traffic safety which will help give you the confidence to bike safely and legally.
Getting started is hard and possibly even scary. Find a friend who is already riding to help hold your hand in the beginning. Join local bike groups, especially ones geared towards casual riders or families (Kidical Mass). Talk to your local bike shop about their suggestions, although if they give you grief, find a different shop. There are great resources online, (R)evolutions Per Minute is a FaceBook group whose members are always happy to give encouraging words or helpful suggestions for different situations. You are certainly not alone in your desire to bike with your family.
Finding a set-up that works well for your family is the first step. My children both started riding at 6 months old in a trailer behind my bike. I checked with our pediatrician first and waited until they could sit up and hold a helmet on their head. Our trailer, although we found it used on Craigslist, was top of the line and had suspension to minimize vibrations–one of the main concerns regarding riding with very young children. Other people have started with their children much younger and others have chosen to wait longer. This is a decision that is best made between you, your partner, and your child’s doctor.
CARGO BIKES are in a class of their own. These are often viewed as car-replacement vehicles. Children under 4 years old must be strapped into a child seat (according to California vehicle code), those over 4 still need to be sitting on a designated “seat” that is designed for that purpose. Cargo bikes make riding with multiple children incredibly easy. It’s important to test ride a few different styles as this kind of bike is an investment at $800-5000.
For my family, we started with trailers until we realized that we wanted to make biking our main form of transportation. We committed to using our bikes for ALL trips that were “bikeable.” At first, we started with a 2-4 mile radius, excluding some routes that we weren’t comfortable on, yet. Slowly, we started finding longer distances doable and ways to get to previously uncharted territory. Our car sat in the driveway for longer and longer periods of time and we started paying attention to our savings for each mile ridden as opposed to driven.
After about 8 months, we made the leap into car-freedom by selling our Prius. Our cargo bike, a Yuba Mundo, made biking easier than using the trailer had been. In a pinch, we’ve been known to borrow my parents’ or a friend’s car and we have a membership to Zip Car, a car sharing program. We’ve found that biking can get us to about 90% of all our necessary destinations and made it 1000% more fun.
You can learn more about our journey by checking out our website: tinyhelmetsbigbikes.com. We document the good days and the not-so-good days, document what has been working and what hasn’t, and write about lots of our fun adventures going bicycle camping and touring. You can also find us riding around Sacramento and at our monthly Kidical Mass rides. We’re happy to answer any questions that could help get you into family bicycling.
When the topic of Baby Signs comes up, the question I get most often is: “When do you teach a baby to sign?“ when the question I wish I would get is: “How can I be successful teaching a baby to sign?”
No matter what age you start showing your baby signs, your baby will not sign overnight. It may take longer the younger the baby is, but regardless of age, signing takes time. Think back to when you tried learning a second (or third) language… Remember how challenging and frustrating it was? You started with a few words at a time and once you mastered those words, you added a few more and so on. It was a S…L…O…W… process. So unless you’re John Travolta in Phenomenon, you probably cannot pick up a language by just reading a dictionary. And chances are, your baby isn’t going to pick up signs the first few times you try.
Signing with your baby takes PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE, both of which seem to be in small quantities with a new baby. Research done by Dr. Linda Acredolo and Dr. Susan Goodwyn reveal that most babies really start signing (purposefully) around 12 months. Some babies may sign sooner and some babies may sign later. Each baby is an individual! But in our experience, we see many babies show their first sign between 8-10 months and only do one or two signs until about a year. This is average.
Now because we teach classes, my daughter has been exposed to Baby Signs® classes since day one. Well actually, she was around our “Sign, Say & Play” song long before she was born. She now comes along to classes 3-4 times a week, so she gets a lot of exposure to the signs, songs, and class structure. Starting around 6 months old, when she heard the song, she started waving her arms around attempting the signs for SIGN and PLAY. But even though she’s exposed to all of these signs and started very early, she didn’t show us her first sign MORE until she was about 8 months old.
We were so excited when she started signing MORE, but then she only did that one sign occasionally and that was the only sign she did. That was until she turned 10 months. At 10 months, she knows and signs: MORE, ALL DONE, MILK, DRINK, BATH, PHONE, HAT, NO, HI/BYE, MUSIC/SONG, and HELP.
Although when she first started signing, she didn’t do signs on command. She used them in context, which is why we start teaching them! Signs are a COMMUNICATION TOOL. Watch the short 10 second video of her signing BATH at 10 months old as soon as she heard the water turn on in the bathtub!
When she started, we didn’t sign to her ALL DAY LONG. On the contrary! Before she was a year, we only reinforced a few at home. This proves that you don’t have to be fluent in ASL to teach your baby signs. It’s not about the quantity, but quality. In the signing classes or workshop, we teach you how and when to teach your baby signs to be successful.
Of course we’re surprised and very proud, but each baby is different and has his/her own developmental timeline. This baby has about lots of signs at 10 months for the following reasons:
And here is another short video clip of the same baby “reading” a book with us at 12 months old. You can see she has modifications, but she can show us what she likes. For example, because “Brown Bear Brown Bear” is her favorite book, she continually points out every fish, every duck, and every dog in all the books we have [see recommended Slide & Find version of this board book pictured to the right].
These last few weeks, I have been “nesting.” Every bathroom in the house is sparkling and clean, the kitchen sink has been scrubbed (multiple times), and the baseboards have all been wiped clean. Additionally, last week, my parents and sisters came over to us “spring clean” our garage and the baby’s room, which both have been ultimately used as storage.
Since the organizing madness, I have become obsessed with hooks and have been asking my dad and husband to hang them everywhere. The garage now has hooks on every wall, holding up bags, wagons, and everything in between that I used to trip over every time I tried to get to my car. We have also added hooks downstairs by the front door for our son to hang his jackets, hats, and backpack. He LOVES them (and I love having empty banisters).
Needless to say, after our organizing day, we filled the car and took BAGS and BOXES of things to Goodwill. It felt amazing! I am always surprised on how much stuff we can accumulate in a short period of time (and the kind of crap we keep…)
In the spirit of donating, one of my favorite things to do is “reuse” food. While I don’t actually “reuse” food, I’m all for cooking and preparing foods that I can use in multiple meals. One of my go-to store bought item is a rotisserie chicken. After tearing the chicken apart and saving the “good” stuff, I let the bones/undesireable parts simmer in the slow cooker overnight with tons of water. I usually end up with 2-3 containers of chicken broth that I stick in the freezer for later use.
Anyway, this last time I picked up a rotisserie, we didn’t eat the meat right away like we usually do, so every time I opened the fridge door, the overflowing container of chicken stared back at me. To make matters worse, I had a huge Tupperware of leftover angel hair pasta from Monday’s dinner. (I was never very good at estimating how much pasta to actually make).
So, during my nightly Pinterest surfing, I found this recipe for copycat Asian Lettuce Tacos, similar to the appetizers found at the Cheesecake Factory. I discovered these last month during one of our Moms’ Night Out and fell in love. Anyway, these “tacos” (or lettuce wraps) are loaded with veggies and I had everything I needed (aside from the bean sprouts) at home. I made a few additions, but overall the wraps were delicious! (See below for my modified recipe).
Ingredients for the Wraps
Ingredients for Peanut Sauce
Now that we are 36 weeks pregnant, the countdown has officially begun. Every day that passes brings us closer to D-day. In addition, our son is nearing his 2.5 year mark, placing us smack-dab in the middle of the “Terrific Twos.” Not only is Baby #2 demanding more and more of my precious energy, but our son has also become more and more verbally demanding. While I know his behavior and “demands” are completely normal and age-appropriate, some days I find it very difficult to find enough patience to respond like an adult (and not a two-year old).
Last evening, after a particularly lazy day, I was pretty proud of myself for cooking a home-made dinner of spaghetti with Baked Meatballs. As an added benefit, there was enough leftover for my husband’s lunch today AND I was able to freeze half of the meatballs for a later meal post-baby. A+ for mama!
However, after dinner, I made the mistake of mentioning what I picked up at the grocery store: M&Ms. For those of you who have parented – or are parenting – a toddler, NOTHING escapes their tiny ears, especially when it comes to sweet treats. After the forbidden word was revealed, our son refused to focus on anything else besides “M’s.” Lucky for us, we still have a few snack sized bags of M&Ms hidden away in our pantry. As an adult who enjoys eating these small colorful treats, I eat them too fast to admire their bright colors. However, with a toddler who scrutinizes every tiny morsel of candy that enters his adorable mouth, colors become the main event.
Since I still encourage our son to use signs on a regular basis – mostly because his verbal words are still very unclear – I look for opportunities to practice and introduce new signs and words. For toddlers, color signs are not only fun, but easily recognized. After I opened the tiny bag, I asked him what colors he saw. He picked up a blue M&M and said “Blue.” Since he recognized the color blue, I showed him the sign for BLUE, which he immediately copied. We continued to go through all the colors: YELLOW, BROWN, ORANGE, & RED. By the time the little brown bag was empty, he was able to show me and talk about 5 color signs! Who knew a quick and spontaneous dessert could turn into a signing lesson.
Parenting toddlers can be very frustrating and it can be tiring keeping up with their curiosity and eagerness for learning, while finding ways to challenge their little minds can be difficult. In addition, learning about colors is one of the first preschool concepts taught to young children. One of our On The Grow™ classes, “Our Rainbow World,” allows us to provide our toddlers a way to introduce colors in a fun and creative way! Since all children learn differently, our classes are a perfect blend of signing, playing, and music for all types of learning styles.
Signing doesn’t stop after your child begins to talk. In fact, signs become even more useful during the toddler years, when our child’s growing vocabulary and limited ability to form words clearly make it difficult to understand them. Encouraging the use of signs during the toddler years can continue to help reduce frustration and help teach important preschool and learning concepts. For more information, please
After my son was born and my maternity leave dwindled away, I struggled as most new moms did: choosing between my working career or staying home with my new baby. For almost a year, I flip-flopped between working full-time, to part-time, to being home, then back to part-time work. however, whatever option I chose left me feeling guilty: either for leaving my baby in the care of someone else, or for putting my career on hold. It seemed as if either option left me feeling empty and sad.
In Fall of 2012 I decided to quit my job and stay home with my toddler. I became an Independent Certified Instructor (ICI) with the Baby Signs® program in 2011, but did not have the time (or energy) to focus on the classes and marketing. However, after I decided to quit my job outside the home, I began to funnel more efforts into the Baby Signs® classes. Today, Abigail and I are not only successful Baby Signs® Instructors – only teaching between 2-4 hours week – but I honestly can say I LOVE what I do!
I am able to schedule classes around my schedule, bring in some extra income, and have time left-over to spend with my family My stress levels have dropped drastically. It is no longer a battle between my husband and me over who will empty the dishwasher or fold laundry. I have time to focus on my work, my family, and myself (which is something I have never had enough time to do in the past).
By becoming a Baby Signs® ICI, you can have fun and earn additional income teaching Baby Signs® classes and workshops in your own community. The Baby Signs® Independent Certified Instructor Program is designed to train, certify and support our growing team of Instructors as they build their own home businesses.
Join our worldwide network of instructors – we will provide you with comprehensive training – in both infant sign language, early childhood development and a certification to teach the Baby Signs® Program. You can also count on our on-going support to start and grow a thriving Baby Signs® Program in your community.
The Baby Signs® Program is the world’s leading sign language program for babies because it’s the only
So, if you would like to SET your own hours, OWN your own business, INCREASE your family’s income, and MAKE a difference in the lives of babies and families in your community, then join us as a Baby Signs® Independent Certified Instructor. (Click Here to learn more about the Baby Signs® Program)
For more information or to receive an informational packet and application, please contact Elizabeth!